AGF Study No. 8: Reorganization of Ground Troops for Combat
SECOND PERIOD: THE AGE OF ECONOMY
OCTOBER 1942 - OCTOBER 1943
SUMMARY: NET EFFECT OF REDUCTION AND REORGANIZATION IN 1943
All aspects of the new tactical organization, pertaining to armies, corps, divisions and non-divisional units, were summarized in an explanatory directive issued by
the Army Ground Forces to its subordinate agencies on 21 July 1943. General McNair wrote this directive himself, and it represents the fullest statement on organization made by him during his command of the Army Ground Forces. Since no better or more authoritative summary is possible, it is attached as Annex IX. The directive was reprinted by the War Department as Circular 256, 16 October 1943 (pars. 1 to 6), for circulation to the entire Army, but with rephrasings and abridgements by which some of its effectiveness was lost.
Application of the new organization in the theaters after 1943 is considered below. In general, a reaction set in against the extreme emphasis on flexibility and economy. Nor did it prove possible to confine corps and group headquarters to tactical functions only.
Reduction of unit personnel and equipment had many implications. It undoubtedly increased the combat power delivered per ton of shipping. It lightened the problem of supplying fuel, spare parts and replacements of men and vehicles. Forces became more compact and maneuverable by loss of impedimenta. But operation at minimum levels naturally produced stresses and strains. Tables of organization and equipment received piecemeal augmentations, swinging again toward the opposite end of the cycle. Fundamental tables, for example those of the infantry and armored divisions, remained substantially unchanged until the end of the war in Europe. There were many cases, however, of augmentation by special allowance, outside the T/O and E's, but in effect enlarging the units.
Great economies were accomplished by the Army Ground Forces in consumption of manpower. Because of reduction in division tables, the 89 divisions active in 1945 required only 70,000 more enlisted men than the 73 divisions active at the end of 1942. Sixteen divisions were thus obtained with an outlay of manpower which in 1942 would have produced less than five. In non-divisional field artillery the 142 battalions mobilized at the end of 1942 required almost exactly 100,000 enlisted men for themselves and their overhead of higher artillery command. In February 1945 the 329 mobilized battalions required only 182,000. Under 1942 tables 182,000 men would have produced approximately 260 battalions. Hence 69 battalions were gained without use of additional manpower.195
But it cannot be said that economies practiced by General McNair were used as he preferred and intended, viz., to increase the number of ground combat units. In general, no more units, in fact fewer, were mobilized under the reduced tables than had been set up for mobilization under the unreduced tables. In June 1943, as the work of unit reduction neared its completion, over 300,000 men were cancelled from the AGF troop basis. The War Department, obliged at that time to cut the planned strength of the Army, found it the easier to take most of the cut out of Ground Forces because Ground Forces had reduced their unit requirements. In this sense General McNair's economy had a reverse effect from what he intended, namely, to make manpower more readily available to the Air and Service Forces.196
It is probable, given conditions and expectations prevailing in the summer of 1943, that the total planned strength of Ground Forces would have been cut at that time whether AGF units were reduced or not. With further subsequent cuts, and with failure of expected restorations to materialize the authorized strength of all AGF-type units on 31 March 1945 was approximately 1,000,000 less than had been projected two years before.197 The fact that units were reduced in size meant that this loss in number of men did not produce a corresponding loss in number of units. This was of immeasurable importance, for certainly the total number of ground combat units finally mobilized was none too many. By producing a fighting army out of a shrinking stock of allotted manpower the most extreme policies of economy would seem to have been abundantly justified.
Last updated 15 March 2006